👨‍💻 Franco May

Franco May |

Why Sweden?

I had the idea to write about this topic while having lunch at the home of a couple we (me and my wife Natasha) met in Sundsvall last weekend. As always when we talk to someone new, the question soon comes up: Why Sweden?
Every time I am asked this, I take a few seconds to answer. And each time I answer something a little bit different from the last time. Although it sounds weird, I'm not entirely sure why I came to Sweden. I (luckily) didn't have any strong reason to want to leave my country behind. I think Argentina is one of the best countries in the world. It has all the climates and landscapes and the people are as friendly as it can get. But nevertheless I left.
The fact is that this time I replied that the reason for coming to Sweden was because my wife wanted to live in Europe. This was an unmovable decision, so I simply had no choice but to follow her here. Sweden is simply a country that neither of us had a bad concept of.
Ok. did that sound really bad to you? The imagine how it sounded to Natasha.
Later when we were alone, she inquired why I said that. We talked about it for a while and finally I was able to shape some thoughts that I had floating in my mind for some time now and could not define. I now think I'm finally finding the words to answer this repetitive question.
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Sundsvall in spring 😅

Unfortunately I will need to do a long side track, but I'll get to the point eventually (I promise!).
A few months after arriving in Sweden, I heard from a neighbour that Sweden has no culture. I think that such a thought usually arrives after thinking about the many cultures in the world and how different they can be compared to your own.
One way you may get a thought like this could be as follows: You think about the fact that there is people out there who live in wooden huts, who paddle in canoes carved into logs, speak alien-sounding languages and follow exotic rituals and then you examine yourself to find that there is nothing quiet as remarkable about you or your habits. You wake up in the morning, read the news, work in an office somewhere and then come home to watch Netflix or play video-games. So where is your culture? Do you even have one?
Yet all this seems so natural to you because it is exactly the culture in which you live every day. Swedish culture is rich and very much alive. They have rituals, strange activities and a weird language too. There is an obsession with coffee and candies, they eat tacos on Fridays and watch Donald duck at christmas, they imitate frogs in midsommar and you can see them jumping into icy water in the harsh Swedish winter. They are great sportsmen and make lots of funny sounds while they talk, to show that they are actively listening to a conversation. And I could continue, of course.
This is not a point I want to make about swedes, but about every culture. The point is that it is easy to forget how particular your own culture is and become blind to it. To the point that you may think you have no culture, however false that may be.
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Sailing is a very swedish tradition

The reason I'm talking about this is because I think this effect is taking place in many countries when it comes to their values. Shared values ​​are a part of the culture too, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the values ​​one holds are the most neutral and fair. And if you think that this does not happen to you, I invite you to think about human rights. Or the right to live, freedom of expression, respect for the environment or the freedom to profess your religion of choice. If all these values ​​seem obviously good to you, great! They seem positive to me too! But we shouldn't forget that they are a set of values ​​that are founded in culture and we could argue if they are actually good or not, but they are absolutely not obvious to every culture. There is no law of nature that justifies any of these values, and indeed many cultures around the world do not agree with these principles. We ourselves did not agree with these principles just a few generations ago.
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Near Udevalla

All of this brings me to other this topic: Has it ever crossed your mind that happiness might be overrated? Hear me out...
I had a conversation with a co-worker and her husband a couple of months ago. He was saying that if a couple is not happy together, then they should break up. It's just logical. The conservative habit of maintaining a relationship when it does not bring happiness does not make sense. If separation maximizes happiness, then you should do it. Sounds like a good metric to measure the value of a decision, right?
I think however that this is a bit too simplistic.
The reason why it seems so obvious that this is the right decision is because happiness-seeking is deeply rooted in the culture of whoever holds this thought. Swedish culture is one of the most beautiful I could think of, but I think this attitude towards happiness is also rooted in Swedish culture. And swedes suffer from it.
I don't mean to say that happiness is not important. Of course it is. I just have some reasons to believe it is not the most important.
First of all, who's happiness is it that we want to maximize? There is for instance some happiness to every individual. What about the happiness of your partner, and that of your children and parents? Your actions inevitably have an impact on them. Should you take other people's happiness into account or just your own?
And what about your word? Don't couples swear that they will be together forever? Even people who don't get married in a church tend to make those promises in private. But what are your words worth if their validity depends on your happiness? I don't think situations like these are edge cases.
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Natasha and her mother in Lerkil

Just in case, I want to clarify again that I think taking care of your happiness is very important. But I think that when too high an importance is attached to it, it can lead to a selfish attitude towards others. It can also be detrimental to oneself, because it neglects other personal characteristics, such as your faithfulness (will you be faithful to your words if you find that your happiness suffers?).
But the most serious of all, I think it is that it is very tempting to use your "happiness" as an unconscious excuse not to take responsibility for the problems one has.
Let's go back to the example of the couple who is not happy. But now let's think that they lived in the 1700 hundreds and getting a divorce is not an option. Or maybe its 2023 and this couple is very traditional. However the case, they decided in a moment of love some time ago that they were going to be together forever. So that's out of the question now.
The decision that these people have to make is to have a miserable life going forward or analyze their current situation and try to improve it. And most of the times, a change in attitude alone goes a long way in making your life more bearable. Also, running away from your problems usually takes you to another problem. It's just unavoidable. So the more traditional attitude I think is a better approach most of the times, though a harder one.
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View of the sea from Vallda

In short, when one knows that separation is not an option and that keeping one's word is as important as one's own happiness, then promises are given exceptionally and are truly heartfelt.
Also your mentality changes. When honesty and your word are part of your most important values, you begin to see the things you don't like in your life as problems that you have to solve instead of running away from.
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Somewhere in Stockholm

So, why Sweden?
It's true that if it weren't for the fact that Natasha wanted to live outside of Argentina, I would still be there. But it does not follow from this that this experience was a less happy one. Many years ago Natasha asked me to promise that I would never leave her. I faced this trip with enthusiasm since the beginning. I was not sad because this was not my idea. It's just what life threw at me. So I decided to take the challenge. And I feel happier than ever.
Once we were sitting on the edge of one of the thousands of small lakes in Sweden, looking at the forest and the blue sky. I was happy to be in such a beautiful place, to have a good job and to be surrounded by good and interesting people. All this had happened in less than a year. Without thinking of the words, I heard myself saying out loud: Sweden is the most beautiful country in the world.

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Franco May

May 17, 2023

it feels kinda lonely here. would you please leave a comment so that I know im not alone?


Neits :)

June 6, 2023

Jag älskar dig ❤️